Soya beans are packed with nutrition and medicinal value

Soya and soya products are not only rich in proteins and fibre, they may be very valuable against heart diseases, breast cancer and estrogen-related issues like PMS and post-menopausal symptoms in women. Find out why you should include soya in your daily diet.

Soya beans are rich in nutritional value, and the beans, as well as common soya foods made from soya proteins, offer many health benefits. Note that less processed traditional soya products like soybeans, tofu and soya milk are better for you than highly processed products like packaged soya nuggets.

Benefits of soya for heart health

Many studies have been carried out on soya and its effects on heart health. The results have been positive. It appears that soya and soya products can lower LDL, which is the indicator of heart risk. If you replace high-fat dairy products and animal proteins with soya foods, you will see benefits in lower cholesterol. The soluble fibre present in soya removes bad cholesterol from the arteries, leaving them healthy.

Soya contains compounds called phytosterols. These compounds may be responsible for helping the body block cholesterol. Of course, genetics and other factors like the environment affect how we respond to food, so different people may respond to soya differently.

While there is not any information yet about how much soya you should eat on a daily basis to enjoy full benefits, eating as little as 20 grammes of soya protein every day can lower your LDL cholesterol.

Soya is also known to lower blood pressure.

Lower blood pressure after menopause

Women usually experience higher blood pressure after menopause. Combined with hormonal changes and slowing down to the heart, women often experience symptoms like dizziness. Sometimes, women experience faster heart rates. Eating soya proteins have been found to lower blood pressure for post-menopausal women, and they are highly recommended.

Improved symptoms in premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Soya contains chemicals called isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens. These chemicals, found in plants, tend to block the effects of too much oestrogen in the body. This is why it can provide some relief from the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. It can also offer relief in endometriosis.

Valuable food against Type 2 Diabetes

Soya is a rich source of protein and fibre. The fibre in soya is both soluble and insoluble. The insoluble fibres can hold a lot of water in the digestive system. They digest slowly and are an invaluable source of food for individuals suffering from Type 2 Diabetes.

Benefits against constipation

For the same reason that soya is good for diabetics, it can also alleviate constipation. Soya's rich fibre content provides bulk to the stool when digested, holds water and this aids in relieving constipation.

Potential protection against breast cancer

There is some evidence to suggest that soya products may help to prevent breast cancer. It is not yet clear how much soy should be eaten daily to achieve this. But it is clear that including soya and soya products into your diet can protect you from breast cancer. More research is needed to find out how soya works against breast cancer.

If you are a breast cancer survivor, you can safely take two servings a day to find relief from the hot flashes that follow.

But always speak to your doctor before taking soya foods, if your breast cancer has been estrogen-sensitive. You may still be able to tolerate soy isoflavones, but it is always wise to consult a medical expert before you introduce soya and soya products into your diet.

The different forms of soya

  • Soya beans

    Adding a handful of soya beans to legumes can up the nutrition quotient of the dish. Alternatively, they can be boiled, mashed and used in kebabs and cutlets, as a nutritious binding agent
  • Tofu

    Tofu is similar in texture to paneer (cottage cheese). It can replace paneer in paneer based dishes, such as palak paneer. When cooked, it tastes much like paneer
  • Soya milk

    Available commercially, soya milk contains all the goodness of soya and makes a refreshing as well as nutritious drink. They are available in a variety of flavours and some brands are fortified with vitamin D and calcium
  • Green soya beans

    Known as 'edamame' they are served as starters at restaurants serving Japanese cuisine. They are nothing but green soy pods, fresh from the plant
  • Soya flour

    Dried soya beans are milled into flour that can be added to wheat flour and used for making roti, added to dosa/idli batter or in a pakora mix. It is quite versatile and can be used in different ways
  • Soya protein powder

    Found generally in health & fitness stores this product is derived from isolated soya protein. Body builders and athletes, weight watchers and anyone recommended a high-protein diet can have this supplement
  • Tempeh

    Fermented soya beans are used in the preparation of tempeh. It has a meaty texture and is a powerhouse of nutrients. It is also a rich source of good bacteria, essential for the digestive tract
  • Miso

    This is also a fermented product made from soya beans. Miso comes in a paste form and is used as a seasoning or in soups. It also makes a unique dip and a healthy spread. Being fermented it is rich in gut friendly bacteria
  • Soya nuts

    Sold as diet snacks, soya nuts are a rich source of healthy fats and fibre
  • Textured soya protein

    This is another name for soya nuggets and soya granules that is available in Indian markets. The process of making textured soya protein involves defatting and dehydrating the soya beans. When soaked in water, they get a nice chewy texture, much like meat and can be used as a meat replacement in dishes that ask for meat


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